Hogs Try To Bounce Back ... Again

FAYETTEVILLE -- Was Arkansas' spirited late-game comeback in a 78-77 loss at LSU on Wednesday an aberration, or did it signal that the Razorbacks are coming together as a team?

Part of the answer could come tonight when Arkansas plays host to Auburn at 7:05 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena.

"Right now our attitude is 'enough is enough,'" said Hogs 7-foot center Steven Hill. "We really are sick of losing games."

Arkansas (15-7, 4-5 in the Southeastern Conference) may not be "bubblicious" for the NCAA Tournament yet, but could grab the tournament committee's attention by winning five of its last seven regular-season games.

Auburn (10-10, 2-7 SEC) is in more dire postseason straits, but has won two of its last four games since going to a starting lineup of four freshmen and senior guard Ronny LeMelle.

As far as Hogs guard Jonathon Modica is concerned, Auburn is in Arkansas' way at the wrong time, given the Hogs' heartbreaking loss to LSU.

"Somebody has to pay, and Auburn has to be the team," Modica said.

Modica has averaged 28.5 points in the last two games, but he said, "It's not about individual goals. It's about our team winning. We've got three of our next four games at home, and that should help us."

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo, whose team lost 68-52 to Arkansas at home on Jan. 21, shuddered to think how the Hogs might play in Walton Arena.

"In college basketball it's just difficult to win in somebody's backyard, especially at Arkansas where they seem to play three notches better at home," Lebo said. "Most people play better at home, but they are one of the exceptions, I think, in the country that play so much better at home than on the road."

The Razorbacks are 11-1 in Walton Arena this season.

Hogs guard Ronnie Brewer, who leads the SEC in scoring with an 18.7 average, has urged his teammates not to let go of the NCAA Tournament rope.

"We're not giving up," Brewer said. "No one wants this season to unravel like last year. I owe it to our seniors to give 110 percent until we've got no games left."

Brewer, who scored 13 of his 24 points against LSU in the furious final five minutes, has tried to take a leadership role both on and off the court recently.

"Early in my career here I wasn't vocal," Brewer said. "But lately I've become more vocal. We've got to suck it up."

Hogs freshman guard Sean McCurdy, who missed two free throws with 24.4 seconds left against LSU, has thanked Brewer for encouraging him continually after that game.

Arkansas coach Stan Heath said he would probably not start McCurdy tonight, but did say, "I definitely want to get him in there. I had our five best free throw shooters in the game at the end against LSU, and I believe in Sean."

Heath said he would talk to 6-7 forward Charles Thomas, who likes to come off the bench, about starting tonight against a small Auburn team.

Brewer reminded, "Auburn doesn't have a standard center, but they can hurt you with their quickness."

LeMelle, at 6-5, has averaged 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in his last two games, while 6-5 freshman Rasheem Barrett, has jumped back into the starting lineup recently with his 11.1 average.

In Arkansas' win at Auburn, Lebo was disappointed with the Tigers' ball-handling, particularly early in the game.

Frank Tolbert, a 6-4 sophomore who started that game, now comes off the bench and averages 9.3 points.

The Tigers haven't won on the road, but Lebo said they played well at times at both Florida and LSU -- "just not well enough to win with a young group."

Korvotney Barber, a 6-7 freshman from Manchester, Ga., and Quantez "Tez" Robertson, a 6-3 freshman from Cincinnati, Ohio, are capable starters for Auburn. Barber had 13 points against LSU, and Robertson averages 38.2 minutes per game -- second in the SEC.

Hill said he could feel the Razorbacks pulling together with a sense of urgency down the stretch at LSU.

"We realize our season depends on scratching, clawing and getting every break we can," he said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get the break Wednesday night."

Hogs senior guard Dontell Jefferson echoed Hill.

"I think we all dug in down the stretch and showed what we were made of," Jefferson said. "It showed the character we do have. In the huddle during the last TV timeout, we all talked about pushing harder. If we can do that for 40 minutes, we'll decide some games earlier."

That would be OK with Brewer, who said, "We've been close in a lot of games but haven't found a way to win down the stretch. We'd like to get the lead and keep it."

Heath said the Hogs have had their share of adversity, but he said, "I know I can handle it and I know our players can handle it. I hope our fans can handle it. I believe we're turning the corner."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories